8 labels that shaped the New York City house sound

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As Kim Ann Foxman launches her New York-inspired label with the release of Firehouse 001, we take a look at eight influential labels from the Big Apple. In their own unique way, each label has played a part in defining the many flavours of the New York City house sound.

House might owe its name to Chicago’s The Warehouse and its birth to labels like Traxx and DJ International, but New York’s underground culture and dance labels sowed the seeds for the genre’s rich blossoming. From the no-wave movement of ZE and 99 records from the late ’70s / early ’80s to the avant-garde dance music imprints that soundtracked Paradise Garage in the late ’80s, NYC’s music scene was ripe for a house takeover.

The emergence of New York’s Todd Terry, a pioneer of the genre, was a crucial trigger for progression. His cover of Class Action’s Larry Levan mixed ‘Weekend’ helped popularise the flow from the underground disco scene to a new house sound. And his work, along with Jungle Brothers, on short-lived label Idlers took the hip-hop community by storm. More generally the creative and ever-changing NYC  underground culture began to embrace house. From dark tribal rhythms to earthy gospel goodness, a wave of New York house imprints emerged in the late 80s / early 90s that pushed the sound in new directions, spreading its appeal.

Have a look at our timeline of eight labels that shaped the New York house sound below, and over the next pages check them out in detail including a selection of their best releases.

Not intended to stand as a list of the best NYC house labels, this is an exploration of imprints that played a defining role in the development of the city’s multi-faceted house scene. As a result NY labels like Tribal, Eightball, Downtown 161, Shelter and several others have not quite made the cut despite producing many quality releases. Idlers could warrant inclusion for ‘Party People’ (Todd Terry / Royal House) and ‘I’ll House You’ (Jungle Brothers) and while we acknowledge that these releases were game-changers, we’d argue that overall other imprints did more to sculpt the NYC house sound than this Warlock Records sub-label. In fact, two of the eight featured (Sleeping Bag and Salsoul) aren’t strictly house labels but the mark they’ve left has earned them a secure place in our NY house history.

Share your top NYC house records with us here and click next to check out all eight labels individually.


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